Meet the Brewers: Finback

These homebrewer-turned-pro newcomers are making some of the best beer in New York.

There are a lot of great breweries out there. 20 in New York City alone, actually, with a few more on the way and more still located just outside the city. But how many of them brew with ingredients like Szechuan peppercorns, green tea, apple cider, and local honey?

Kevin and Basil started off as experimental home brewers, making tiny batches of their own recipes for years while holding down desk jobs — Kevin was an illustrator, and Basil worked at an architecture firm. After six years of brewing for fun, they started thinking seriously about going pro in 2010. It took another several years to put together the foundation for a business, plan out their operation, and find somewhere to set up shop.

At first, they were actually named Narwhal Brewery, and planned to open in Brooklyn. But after trademark troubles with Sierra Nevada (who started making a Narwhal stout after Kevin and Basil had already begun to get their brewery rolling) and an exhausive search of Brooklyn spaces, they changed to Finback in honor of a whale that ran aground on a New York beach and started looking at properties in Queens.

They eventually settled on a sizable space on a quiet street in Glendale, a cozy residential neighborhood in the outer stretches of the borough. Then they got to work.

The brewery opened in early 2014, and the beer that Kevin and Basil have been brewing since strikes a balance between well-executed experimental brews and more classic options, with both ends being endlessly drinkable.

What We're Drinking: Finback IPA

The latest addition to our office kegerator: this hoppy standout with an orange-y bitterness from our favorite local brewery.

There's a wit brewed with Szechuan peppercorn and ginger, inspired by Basil's trips to China, which bursts with unique flavor and is so refreshing that you could drink three of 'em in an hour. And a dark, puckering sour ale brewed with plums and a touch of smoke. And a white IPA brewed with green tea and lemon zest, which makes one hell of a companion for summery days on the beach.

Then there are the damn good takes on taproom standbys, like a powerfully flavored IPA that's easily one of the best in the city. Or a barrel-aged imperial stout brewed with artisan quality cocoa and coffee.

You can get 'em fresh from the tanks at Finback's airy and comfortable taproom, where you'll usually find Basil and Kevin behind the bar. The two also stack kegs into an oversized van each Thursday and distribute 'em themselves to bars and bottle shops around New York (and occasionally to the Bespoke Post office kegerator). So far their beer has been draft only, but they've just begun to hand bottle select batches, and plan to start canning soon.

Now, the guys are just a couple months shy of their one year anniversary. And if 2014 has been any indication, they've got a bright future ahead of them.

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